Wednesday, October 19, 2016

I Miss My Dad

Ten years ago, my dad (age 79) passed away from pancreatic cancer.  Sure didn't see that cancer coming!

In the 1960's, my dad had a diagnosis of cancer.  He had his fair share of hernias and ulcers.  I am sure that being in his 30's, he didn't think that cancer would be part of his medical records.  In fact, cancer wasn't a real known ailment back then.  When my mom told my brother and I that dad was in the hospital and that it was cancer, The Encyclopedia was the only source of information available.
 ( last centuries Google)

 The set of encyclopedias sat on top of my brothers dresser.  He was so lucky because he could lay in bed at night with a flash light under his covers and read any volume he wanted.  He was also the one who looked up cancer and only found one paragraph.

I was in grade school.  I thought my dad was going to die.

 My grandkids are in grade school and my children are in their 30's. I can't imagine it!

The surgeons cut him open from his sternum down to his pelvic region. Back then everything was exploratory.  He had many scars that I am sure a 2nd grader shouldn't and didn't see. He had radiation that burned his skin.  He stayed home from work.  Everyone was sad.

I remember that he had bandages on his cheek.  They had removed melanoma.  Back then, they just called it cancer.

As my brother and I got older and moved onto college then onto marriage, Dad would always report to us after his yearly checkups.  He always would say, "I'm having my yearly cancer check" and then a week later he would say."I'm good for another year!".  Those were the great years!

Then he got prostate cancer.

My dad was the most positive man in the world. He had a great sense of humor. He used his Scandinavian accent when joking about Lena and Ole, a Norwegian couple who always seemed to be in disharmony.  He couldn't tell a joke without forgetting the punch line.  We would laugh so hard!  No one cared about the punch line when he told the joke!

 He was a proud veteran. He left me the china that he bought in Japan after the war.  Ten years ago, prior to his passing, he spoke more about  his time in the service than he ever did when we were growing up.  We would pass a restaurant call Nagasaki, and he would tell me about that town in Japan.  I would just listen.

When he retired from his career with the Iowa Department of Transportation, he and my mom became what they call "Winter Texans".  Every Halloween they left Iowa and every Mother's Day they left Texas.  My mom still goes to Texas, same schedule.  She turned 86 this year.

He loved my mom.  I remember he would cop a feel right there in front of my brother and me.  Ya Mom, we saw it!  He loved her enough to go to a rehabilitation center for a month to learn about his alcoholism.  When he died 10 years ago, he had celebrated 25 years of sobriety and was a proud member of AA.

Then he got pancreatic cancer.
Then he got bladder cancer.
Then he got liver cancer.

In September of 2006 he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.With each specialist we saw, the other cancer diagnosis showed up.  We stopped taking him to specialists.  He had cancer.

He was in hospice in my home and on the last week of his life we moved him to a facility called the Charlier Hospice Center.  It was the most beautiful experience. We hung artwork and pictures on the walls. We had a tape player with his favorite hymns. We had comfortable chairs to sit in and talk with him while his eyes were closed. He was covered with a colorful knitted prayer shawl that had arrived earlier from a Texas friend. My brother came from Arizona.  My dad had us together and that was a good thing.  When he passed away, we were not present but we were present in his heart.

I miss my dad.  Cancer didn't define him.  He wouldn't let it.  He lived a great life and I bet he remembers the punch line to his jokes in Heaven.....or not!
Jerry and Cinda with Wilmar Nelson